Is It Limited To Who Can Win?

Well we'll find out soon enough won't we. But AP's Tim Dahlberg thankfully reminds us that while we can debate the architectural and historic purity of the Augusta National changes, it's hard to make the case that because of the changes, this anything but a 10-15 man race. (Please, no Tim Clark-finished-2nd-last-year-emails.)

And is that really a good thing so few can win? Or is it a compliment to the course that it separates the elite players? Or something somewhere in between the two?

Ah hell, the Masters is starting! The high holy days are here. Who cares, right?

Still, highlights from Dahlberg's commentary:

A tournament that not that long ago could be won by Ben Crenshaw and Mark O'Meara is now limited to a dozen or so players who have the strength to still reach the elongated 15th in two or can hit their drives far enough to have a decent iron over the pond to the 11th green.

The field is small to begin with, but the changes favor so few players that Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have now won five of the last six Masters.

But that's not the only problem. The worst thing is that they've taken away a lot of the fun of Sunday afternoon.

The old adage was that the Masters began on the back nine on Sunday, when it was almost always a mad dash to the finish. Birdies, eagles and meltdowns were in abundance, and it was almost a guarantee there would be some grand theater of the green.

As late as three years ago, three players in the top five shot 31 on the back nine Sunday, including a leaping Mickelson. Last year, the leaders struggled to break par on the final nine, and Mickelson won in a yawner.

Before Woods ran away with the Masters a decade ago, the green jackets never used to care much about what score won. Now they're using distance and an unnatural cut of rough to try to guard par like the USGA does at the U.S. Open, even though viewers for the most part couldn't care less if the winner is 8 under or 18 under.

The tees are never going to be moved back up, and that's fine. But eliminating the rough would not only make things more interesting, but draw more players into contention.